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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.1, 71 ~ 86, 2019
Recollection of Memory and Stupidity of Love in Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending
Sunhwa Park
This paper examines the narrator’s functions of memory, love and self-realization in Julian Barnes’s 2011 Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending. Using Frank Kermode’s identical title, Barnes adapts the concept of peripeteia to show how the narrator, Tony Webster, distorts and misremembers his own past. Tony faces his peripeteia in relation to a love triangle with his ex-girlfriend, Veronica, and his schoolmate, Adrian. Beginning with the recollection of his memory caused by the contents of a will from Veronica’s mother, Tony goes back to his university days after forty years. Tony confesses he forgot what he had written to Adrian who politely had asked for permission to meet Veronica; and later it turns out that with jealously and rage Tony sent Adrian a postcard of the Clifton Suspension Bridge where surprisingly people jump to death, and moreover a letter with curses to Adrian and Veronica including their next generation. After six months, when he heard about Adrian’s shocking suicide, he simply accepted the reason of Adrian’s death in his own way and went on to live his life. Without recognizing the aftermath of his past acts, Tony comes to know after forty years that Adrian has a mentally challenged son whose mother is not Veronica but Veronica’s mother, Sarah. What matters to him in the case is that Tony loved Veronica and his blind love caused his stupid behavior. By illustrating Tony’s fallibility of memory and past acts, this paper stresses Tony’s self-realization in stupidity Avital Ronell argues; namely, Tony’s stupidity is a part of his nature but is not perceived. In this vein, the peripeteia entangled with his love in The Sense of an Ending is a literary device for Tony to recollect and reconstruct his past, present and, even probably, future by relating himself with others.
Key Words
The Sense of an Ending, peripeteia, fallibility of memory, stupidity, self-realization
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